Congressional Votes for the Week Ending Dec. 14

WASHINGTON – Alabama’s senators last week split on a vote over the country’s involvement in the war in Yemen.

Democratic Sen. Doug Jones voted for the resolution requiring the administration to end U.S. military support of a Saudi-led coalition waging war against Iran-backed Houthi forces in Yemen, unless Congress authorizes the action under the 1973 War Powers Act

Republican Sen. Richard Shelby voted against the resolution.

On a 56-41 vote, the Senate sent the resolution to the House for consideration.

Following is how area members of Congress voted on major issues during the legislative week ending Dec. 14.


Five-Year Farm Bill

Voting 369 for and 47 against, the House on Dec. 12 agreed to the conference report on a bill (HR 2) that would reauthorize federal farm, nutrition and anti-hunger programs for five years on a budget averaging $87 billion annually. The measure would renew the federal sugar program without major changes; fund programs to boost exports; subsidize crop insurance and provide price supports for growers of commodities including corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton and rice and renew a diary program designed to stabilize incomes without directly limiting milk production.

About 80 percent of the bill’s $867 billion projected cost over 10 years is allocated to nutrition and anti-hunger initiatives including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), with the remainder to be spent on agricultural programs including income supports for agribusiness operations and family farms. The conference report omits proposed work requirements for the 40 million food-stamp recipients that the House voted previously to impose.

Mike Conaway, R-Texas, said the bill shows “U.S. farm policy is no longer the old command and control policies of the New Deal, but, rather, a market-oriented, risk management approach that helps America’s farmers and ranchers survive natural disasters and the predatory trade practices of foreign countries like China.”

Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon, said the bill fails to address “the crisis that we are facing in American agriculture – having small and medium-sized producers being squeezed out; the battle in terms of the chemical warfare … with Monsanto products that are threatening agriculture production.” He urged more help for “farmers and ranchers who want to practice on a sustainable basis on the smaller scale, not massive agricultural industrial production.”

A yes vote was to send the bill to President Trump for his signature.


Voting yes: Bradley Byrne, R-1, Martha Roby, R-2, Mike Rogers, R-3, Robert Aderholt, R-4, Mo Brooks, R-5, Gary Palmer, R-6, Terri Sewell,


Voting no:  None


U.S. Withdrawal From Yemen War

Voting 56 for and 41 against, the Senate on Dec. 13 adopted a measure (SJ Res 54) that would require the administration to end U.S. military support of a Saudi-led coalition waging war against Iran-backed Houthi forces in Yemen unless Congress authorizes the action under the 1973 War Powers Act. This marked the Senate’s first substantive debate and up-or-down vote on the intervention since America joined forces with the anti-Iran coalition in 2015. The House has never debated U.S. military involvement in Yemen, and Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, blocked action on this measure in the closing days of the 115th Congress.

Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, said: “We have to make clear, the United States is not for sale, our integrity is not for sale. If the Saudi royal family hopes to salvage its tattered reputation and its relations with the United States, it will need to take far more decisive action to end the war in Yemen and bring to justice all those responsible, at the highest level, for murdering Jamal Khashoggi” inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.

Marco Rubio, R-Florida, said: “I actually don’t think the War Powers Act is constitutional. I believe it is an unconstitutional restraint on the power of the commander in chief, and even if it were constitutional, I do not believe that our engagement, or what we are doing in Yemen with the Saudi UAE coalition, rises to a level of triggering it.”

A yes vote was to send the withdrawal measure to the House.


Voting yes: Doug Jones, D 

Voting no:  Richard Shelby, R 

Holding Crown Prince Responsible, Rebuking Trump

On a non-record vote, the Senate on Dec. 13 adopted a resolution (SJ Res 69) holding Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia responsible for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. The measure was a rebuke to President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who have declined to pin blame on the crown prince despite a Central Intelligence Agency assessment that he oversaw the torture and murder of the Saudi dissident and Washington Post columnist. There was no debate directly on the resolution, and it was adopted unanimously.

IRS Scrutiny of ‘Dark Money’ Political Donors

Voting 50 for and 49 against, the Senate on Dec. 12 adopted a measure (SJ Res 64) that would nullify a Trump administration rule making it more difficult for the Internal Revenue Service to police the sources of so-called “dark money” flowing into the American political system. The six-months-old rule repealed a longstanding requirement that nonprofit groups with tax-exempt status under Section 501(c) of the tax code disclose their donors to the IRS (but not the public) so that the agency can check for illegal activity such as spending by foreign corporations and governments to influence U.S. elections. Defenders say the new rule protects free-speech and privacy rights, while critics say it gives cover to illegal political contributions by foreign donors. Under the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling, corporations, labor unions and individuals can make unlimited contributions to 501(c) groups, which can spend the donated money to support or oppose candidates for federal office.

Richard Durbin, D-Illinois, said: “At a time when we know the U.S. remains under threat of foreign interference in our elections, why would we make it harder for the IRS, law enforcement and our nation’s intelligence organizations to monitor the movement of money in our political system? The answer is clear – we shouldn’t.”

Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, said donors to tax-exempt organizations “deserve to remain anonymous so that they cannot be targeted by their political opponents … . For anyone who truly cares about privacy and ensuring that the federal government does not use the tax system as a political targeting machine, a vote against (this resolution) is the obvious choice.”

A yes vote was to send the nullification measure to the House


Voting yes: Jones 

Voting no:  Shelby 

 Five-Year Farm Bill

Voting 87 for and 13 against, the Senate on Dec. 11 agreed to the conference report on a bill (HR 2, above) that would reauthorize federal farm, nutrition and anti-hunger programs through fiscal 2023 at a cost averaging $87 billion annually. In addition to provisions described above, the bill would designate industrial hemp as an agricultural commodity and declassify it as a controlled substance; expand the definition of family members eligible to receive farm-subsidy payments to include first cousins, nieces and nephews; fund rural development including broadband expansion; address mental health and opioid addiction in rural America; launch a foot-and-mouth disease vaccine bank and fund bioenergy programs and organic farming research.

Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, said: “By protecting and expanding crop insurance and improving support for our dairy farmers – in fact, strengthening the support for our dairy farmers, who were hit so hard with price drops and other issues – we maintain a strong safety net for farmers. Importantly, we maintain a strong safety net for our families.”

Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said the bill would “help the largest farmers receive unlimited subsidies from the federal government … . At its core, farm policy should be a limited safety net to help farmers weather the storm of natural disasters, unpredictable commodity markets and other unforeseen challenges. This bill goes well beyond that.”

A yes vote was to send the measure to the House.


Voting yes: Shelby, Jones 

Voting no: None


Jason Muzinich, Deputy Treasury Secretary

Voting 55 for and 44 against, the Senate on Dec. 11 confirmed Jason G. Muzinich, 41, as deputy Treasury secretary. A Treasury employee since early 2017, he helped draft the $1.4 billion in business and personal tax cuts enacted last year by Congress. Muzinich was previously employed at Morgan Stanley and a family investment firm and served on Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign. His nomination proved controversial over his assertion that the tax bill would pay for itself, not swell the national debt.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said Muzinich “is already serving as senior counselor to (Treasury) Secretary Mnuchin. He is drawing on years of experience in financial management and putting that experience to work through public service.”

Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, called it wrong to assert the tax bill would pay for itself. He said that “by sticking with this debunked claim, you are basically laying out the economic policy version of being a flat-earther. You are either peddling an idea you know is untrue, or you can’t do math. Either way, you shouldn’t have a pivotal, powerful job at the Treasury Department.”

A yes vote was to confirm the nominee.


Voting yes: Shelby, Jones 

Voting no:  None

Jonathan Kobes, Federal Appeals Judge

Voting 51 for and 50 against, with Vice President Pence casting the deciding vote, the Senate on Dec. 11 confirmed Jonathan A. Kobes for a seat on the St. Louis-based 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He received approval despite the American Bar Association rating him “not qualified” because he lacks “knowledge of the law, or ability to write about complex matters in a clear and cogent manner – qualities that are essential for a Circuit Court judge.” Kobes, 41, was employed most recently as general counsel to Sen. Mike Rounds, R-South Dakota, and has worked as an assistant U.S. attorney in South Dakota and a CIA attorney.

No senator spoke on the Senate floor in behalf of Kobes.

Opponent Patty Murray, D-Washington, said: “The American Bar Association has rated him unqualified. That makes Mr. Kobes the sixth judicial nominee from President Trump who is opposed by his professional colleagues. But the thin record he does have is disqualifying because it shows he will put extreme rightwing ideology ahead of women and science” in cases concerning reproductive rights.

A yes vote was to confirm the nominee.


Voting yes: Shelby 

Voting no:  Jones 


Congress will debate criminal-justice reforms and a fiscal 2019 spending measure in the week of Dec. 17.